Communicating internationally by pressing a button, buying and selling online, hosting web-conferences, saving time and money with quick reference Internet research, sending multiple parties information they need in a timely fashion, and sharing files…these are just a few of the modern business uses for the Internet. Technology is changing at a rapid pace and these changes impact the way we do business. Employers often struggle to compete on an international level and employees face the daily challenge of keeping up on their knowledge and skills.
As recently as ten years ago, (1990’s) many companies still sent hard-copy letters by post mail. This practice is quickly becoming a thing of the past as progressive businesses adopt new modes of communication. With the onset of email, quick, instant communications are possible and increasingly email is becoming the communication method of choice. There are both pros and cons to technology but few can dispute that computers and email are here to stay. Accordingly it is absolutely essential that business professionals at all levels learn to utilize technology properly.
“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished,” wrote George Bernard Shaw a century ago.
For those of us who use e-mail regularly, it’s hard to remember what we did before we had it at our fingertips.
According to a recent article published by Law Library Resource Xchange (www.llrx.com), an estimated 72 million employees currently use e-mail, generating approximately 4 trillion messages this year! With so much cybercommunication going on, it seems inevitable that e-mail will change how, even when, we do business.
When used properly email can in fact be a very effective and efficient tool. The problem is most people don’t know how to use it properly. The bottom line is that when you are writing emails you have to remember that you essentially want to “sell” to the message recipient; sell an idea, sell a product, persuade them to do something, etc. And, because it is the subject line that is the first thing people see, those few words are what determine if a recipient even opens a message.
Smart email communicators LURE the reader, create INTEREST, and appeal to what MOTIVATES them. Some professionals understand this and they are quite good at creating “sell” but, they forfeit their credibility if a subject line is not honest, e.g., You’re a Winner, Congratulations, etc.
To increase the chance that someone reads your email, the subject line should be limited to 12 words or less and if possible contain:
- The key message (purpose)
- An indication of what the reader/recipient is supposed to do, e.g., action, file, review, etc.
- Deadlines and timelines- because we’re all trying to prioritize and organize our time.
- Words that will help the recipient file the email
Weak subject lines that give insufficient or little information waste time- your time and the message recipient’s time. Some examples include:
- John’s document
- Project Update
- Did you hear about the…
If it is not apparent that you want something specific and/or when you want it, most readers will skip over your email.
Tips for Writing Emails That Get Read
- Keep it short.
- Cover 3 (short) topics at most.
- Answer the question, “What does he/she want from me?” in the subject line.
- Put any information longer than 1-3 short paragraphs into an attachment.
- Say what you mean, be specific, provide details that answer “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “When”, and “Why”.
- Use business language and business tone- give the impression you mean business. And, address the business first, leaving the niceties to last.
- The simpler the better- include extra white space and bullets where possible.